Review: Rachmaninoff recital with Angela Zanders and Mikhail Ledzkan at the Menuhin Room

Portsmouth, Jan 20

By way of introducing an all-Rachmaninov programme, Angela Zanders read from a contemporary article in Grove’s, ‘the unsurpassed authority on all aspects of music’, that amongst other things described his music as ‘artificial, gushing’.

That’s fine by me. All art is ‘artificial’, it just might sometimes choose to sound ‘natural’, and by all means we can all ‘gush’ a bit if we see fit. As Angela said, he remains very popular. We don’t have to worry about that either. To re-work the famous quote about Wagner, music is as good as it sounds and the first few notes of Mikhail Ledzkan’s cello in the Prelude, op. 2, announced all that we needed to know about the pleasure of being back for a further year of the Menuhin Room series. I’m sure he could play the telephone directory and make it sing.

The Prelude didn’t gush but grew gently to a considered lyricism and then without Mikhail, Angela played another for piano, op. 23 no. 4 which was loosely redolent of the Fauré Berceuse, perhaps, again extending towards something more rhapsodic. 

Not everything needs to be in top gear but the programme moved through a few to arrive at the main feature, the Sonata in G minor, op. 19. The early activity was more on the tumbling array of notes on the keyboard while the cello did what it is best at in contrasting longer lines. I do have a question for all ensemble performers about how much they rehearse together because in some cases I think it might be surprisingly little but the expertise of performers like these doesn’t let it show.

The Allegro scherzando is almost panic-stricken with its powerful theme emerging from amidst the agitato and the cello moving through its range of available effects but this is a ‘large-scale’ work even if for only two instruments. The Andante was given an impassioned hearing before the Allegro mosso finale was dramatic, energized and a triumphant finish to a glorious performance from two who are already Menuhin Room stalwarts and very much part of the foundations that Andrew McVittie has built his fine series.

Perhaps we should all be artificial and gushing. And I mean that most sincerely.

David Green

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